Programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security may be safe from the government shutdown because they’re deemed mandatory and essential spending, but other agencies aren’t so lucky, and workers across the country are paying the price.
How the government shutdown affects federal employees
Around 800,000 federal employees don’t know when they’ll receive their next paycheck. During this particular shutdown, 400,000 federal employees are expected to work without pay and another 350,000 employees will be furloughed, or granted an involuntary leave of absence without pay. Furloughed employees will still have jobs when the shutdown ends and will retain their benefits in the meantime.
On January 16th, President Trump signed a bill that will provide federal workers with back pay once the government reopens. However, that still leaves many government employees who live paycheck-to-paycheck on modest salaries in dire financial straits as there is no end in sight to the shutdown.
Agencies affected by the shutdown
The following agencies have completely or mostly shut down during the standoff for border wall funding:
- Department of the Treasury
- Department of Agriculture
- Homeland Security Department
- Department of the Interior
- Department of State
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of Transportation
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Justice
The Food and Drug Administration
One agency impacted by the shutdown is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and this could be trouble for Americans across the country.
Funding for routine food inspections has suspended, meaning the United States could potentially see an increase of food-borne illnesses and death in the coming months. The FDA will continue inspections of imported food, but 70 percent of all domestic inspections have been halted.
FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottleib said in a tweet, “Food Safety During Shutdown: We’re taking steps to expand the scope of food safety surveillance inspections we’re doing during the shutdown to make sure we continue inspecting high risk food facilities. 31% of our inventory of domestic inspections are considered high risk.”
Particular high-risk foods that will not be inspected during this time include breakfast cereal (salmonella), romaine lettuce (E. coli), and ice cream (listeria). Cheese is also considered a high-risk food, but meat and most egg products are safe as they’re inspected by the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is still funded.
Departments working without pay
Federal employees working without pay include 41,000 workers in the Drug Enforcement Agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and thousands of other law enforcement and correctional officers, including many in the FBI.
Other federal workers going without pay include:
- TSA agents (53,000)
- Coast Guard (42,000)
- Customs and Border Protection (54,000)
- Forest Service firefighters (5,000)
- National Weather Service forecasters (3,600)
The IRS has furloughed around 52,000 staff members, which could lead to delayed tax returns for millions of Americans.
Workers at the following agencies have been furloughed:
- Department of Commerce (41,000)
- NASA (19,000)
- Forest and National Park Service (44,000)
- Transportation Department (18,300)
After a 2013 government shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that taxpayers spent $2 billion due to the lost productivity of furloughed workers.
No end in sight
This shutdown, which began on December 22nd, has officially been the longest government shutdown in American history. Donald Trump said in a tweet, “If the Dems vote no [on $5.7 billion for border wall funding], there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time.”
The House has passed two bills that would reopen the government, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring them to a vote on the Senate floor despite support from both sides of the aisle to reopen the government.